The K-State rowing team is having a monumental season. They’ve won more weekly honors this season than total in school history. A lot of that is due to team leadership. There is a strong core of junior and senior leaders that have been through their paces.
One of those leaders is Hillary Schartz, a senior coxswain from Claflin, Kan. Coming into college she did not have any rowing experience, which is the norm for K-State rowing. She was a cheerleader and a tennis player at Claflin High School.
The prospect of being able to be more than your average everyday student was part of what drew her to rowing.
“I think what drew me to rowing was the idea of learning a new sport that I really knew nothing about,” Schartz said. “Also, the opportunity to be part of something more in college and not just be just a regular student, and the opportunity to be part of a team that competes on the collegiate level really drew me.”
A Kansas native, Schartz grew up a K-State fan which, along with K-State’s veterinary medicine program, made K-State a lock for her.
“I came to K-State because my whole family is kinda just K-State fans, so I kind of grew up coming to the football games and wearing purple,” Schartz said.
On the team, Schartz is a coxswain – which differs in role from the other rowers. Schartz said that head coach Patrick Sweeney describes the coxswain as “the appendage of the coach.” It is her job to lead the rest of the team in practice and during races. In other words, she steers the boat.
Over the past four years, Hillary has participated in one of K-State’s longest rowing traditions, the race for the Kansas Cup, which is a part of the Sunflower Showdown. This season, K-State won for the fourth time in a row in very exciting fashion. Schartz said that being a part of the rivalry wasn’t expected, but it is very gratifying.
“My classmates growing up were split K-State (and) KU, so the rivalry has been something that has always been a part of my life,” Schartz said. “I didn’t think that I would have a part in that originally but rowing has giving me an opportunity. It’s been super cool to be a part of it. It’s awesome to race KU and you can tell it means a lot to the KU rowers as well.”
With successes like the winning the Kansas Cup all four years of her college career, among other things, have helped Schartz grow as a leader. She said she likes to bring young team members alongside her as she goes through her paces. Schartz also shares past experiences with them so they can learn from her mistakes and failures.
It’s that leadership, combined with the leadership of her other teammates and coaching staff, that has propelled the team to new heights this season. Schartz said that some of the program’s success is due to fact that the team has been building off itself year after year.
“I think it’s a really cool testament to Coach Sweeney’s program and his vision for the team and that we are moving in the correct direction,” Schartz said.
This upcoming weekend is the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla. Though K-State has never won the Big 12 in rowing, Schartz said that it’s a major focus for the team. It is the team’s main mindset that when they are practicing, whether that be in the water or in the rowing center, they are practicing to win the Big 12.
After all the races are over, Schartz, like all of the other seniors on this team and every other K-State team, will across the stage at Bramlage Coliseum and step into their futures. Schartz said she ultimately wants to be remembered more for how she’s led and the relationships that she’s made than what wins she helped garner.
“I want to be remembered as a humble leader who above all else cared about the girls that are sitting in my boat,” she said. “I want to be remembered as someone who is dedicated, and who loved the sport and the girls that I competed with.”